Sexual Exposure

Sexual Exposure can be found in section 19 of the Summary Offences Act 1996 in Victoria. It is previously referred to as “Obscene Exposure” but was repealed on 1 July 2017. Sexual Exposure is committed by a person who intentionally exposes their genitals in a sexual way and in a public place.

Have you been accused of Sexual Exposure?

Police Interview
It is important to understand that a Police interview is not the place for you to explain your side of the story and hope the matter will go away. The primary purpose of the Police interview is for the Police to either get admissions to Sexual Exposure.


Before you speak with the Police you should get some advice on how to handle the interview process. Our lawyers can prepare you for your interview to make sure you do not say anything which will harm your defence to Sexual Exposure later on.

You can always provide the Police with a statement after the interview which will explain the full circumstances if you have a defence. It is worth remembering that Police are trained to question people in a way that makes them appear like they are not telling the truth. They will then play your interview at a contested hearing and rely on your answers as an admission of guilt or that you are hiding something.

Our lawyers can also attend the Police station with you and sit in on the interview to make sure you do not feel compelled to say something you are not obliged to say. It can be confronting being interviewed by Police.

Pleading Not Guilty

If the Police charge you with Sexual Exposure, you will want a proactive lawyer in your corner. Our lawyers approach matters with a view of securing evidence and speaking to potential witnesses.

We have in-house barristers who run our contested hearings and trials. They get involved in matters early on to develop a defence strategy. This leads to great outcomes because you have a barrister involved in your case from the very beginning.

Pleading Guilty

If you decide to plead guilty to Sexual Exposure, one of our experienced lawyers can represent you in Court to get the best possible outcome for you.

Our lawyers have years of experience appearing in Court on pleas of guilty. Our lawyers know what works. We can help you to gather character references, psychological reports and other mitigating material to reduce the penalty you will receive.

Which court will the case be heard in?

This offence is the sort of charge regularly heard in the Magistrates’ Court.

Examples of Obscene Exposure
  • You are getting changed in your living room, which faces the street, and you deliberately expose your genitals to people walking past.
  • You are drinking with friends, and you do a ‘nudie run’ down a busy road.
What is the legal definition of Sexual Exposure?

This charge will be made out where an accused intentionally exposes their genitals in a sexual way and in a public place.


This legislation comes from section 19 of the Summary Offences Act 1966.

Elements of the offence

The prosecution must prove the follow beyond reasonable doubt:

  1. The accused exposed their genitals; and
  2. The accused intended to expose their genitals; and
  3. The exposure is sexual; and
  4. The exposure is in a public place.

Element 1: Did the accused expose their genitals?
The prosecution must prove that the accused exposed their genitals. Genitals has its ordinary meaning – it includes organs of reproduction but would not include breasts. It also includes surgically altered or constructed genitals.1

Whether the accused exposed his or her genitals will be a matter of fact. It is sufficient to expose one’s genitals ‘to any extent’. For instance, the tip of the penis would be sufficient.

Element 2: Did the accused intend to expose their genitals?
It would not be enough for the accused to inadvertently expose their genitals. For instance, if a person was wearing a dress, and the wind unexpectedly caused the dress to fly up and expose the wearer’s genitals, this would not amount to ‘intent’.

Element 3: Was the exposure sexual?
An accused’s exposure of their genitals is not sexual only because it is the genitals that are exposed.2

An accused’s exposure may be sexual due to:

  1. The fact that the accused seeks or gets sexual arousal or sexual gratification from the exposure; or
  2. Any other aspect of the exposure, including the circumstances in which it takes place and whether it is contrary to the community standards of acceptable conduct.3
“Can they prove that the exposure was sexual?”

Note that Sexual Exposure lawyers will not be able to use as a defence some circumstances such as when the accused was under a mistaken but honest and reasonable belief that the exposure was not sexual.4

Element 4: Was the exposure in a public place?
Whether the exposure was in a public place will be a matter of fact. It is sufficient if the exposure was ‘within the view of’ a public place.5 For instance, exposing your genitals through the front window of your house, which faces the street, would be sufficient to satisfy this element.

It is a defence to the charge if the accused was under a mistaken but honest and reasonable belief that the exposure was not in, or within the view of, a public place.

Questions in cases like this
  • Did you intend to expose your genitals?
  • Was the exposure sexual?
  • Was the exposure within view of a public place?
What are some of the possible defences to Obscene Exposure?

Defences to this charge can include a factual dispute, an honest and reasonable mistake of belief, an identification dispute, lack of intent, a mental impairment, or duress. Other defences may be used by Sexual Exposure lawyers depending on the circumstances surrounding the allegations.

You should ring us and discuss your case if you have been charged. Deciding on whether to plead guilty or not has consequences for you and should be made after proper discussion with a criminal defence lawyer.

Maximum penalty for section 19 of the Summary Offences Act 1966

An accused who is found guilty of Sexual Exposure (s19 of the Summary Offences Act 1966) may be sentenced to a prison term for a maximum of 2 years (Level 7 imprisonment). This is however the maximum penalty possible and will not always be imposed. The way Sexual Exposure lawyers handle cases will affect the sentence handed down by courts.


Sentencing in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria

Sentencing Statistics Pie Chart for Intentional Sexual Exposure in a Public Place in the Magistrates' Court of Victoria Between 2020 and 2023

Other important resources
Case studies related to Obscene Exposure

[1] Section 19 Subsection 7 of the Summary Offences Act 1966.
[2] Section 19 Subsection 6 of the Summary Offences Act 1966.
[3] Section 19 Subsection 5 of the Summary Offences Act 1966.
[4] Section 19 Subsection 3 of the Summary Offences Act 1966.
[5] Section 19 Subsection 1 of the Summary Offences Act 1966.